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Movement disorders occur when muscles move uncontrollably or don’t move when you want them to. These disorders can include Parkinson’s disease, tremors and restless legs syndrome.

The Scott & White Plummer Movement Disorders Center (PMDC) is part of the division of Scott & White's Neurology Department within the Neuroscience Institute. The center offers a variety of treatments for patients suffering from movement disorders.

About Movement Disorders

What is a movement disorder?

A movement disorder occurs when neurological conditions affect speed, fluency, quality and ease of movement.

If you have abnormal fluency or speed of movement, it may also involve other conditions. Movement disorders include excessive or involuntary movement (hyperkinesia) or slow or absent voluntary movement (hypokinesia).

What are the symptoms of a movement disorder?

The symptoms of a movement disorder largely depend on the type of condition you may have. People may have varying degrees of symptoms associated with the severity of the movement disorder and depending on the type of neurological issue.

 Symptoms that may suggest a movement disorder may include the following:

  • Uncontrollable movements
  • Inability to move or moving too slowly
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Jerks or twitches
  • Spasms or contractures
  • Gait problems or trouble walking

The symptoms of a movement disorder may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult a physician for a diagnosis.

What are some examples of movement disorders?

We treat a number of movement disorders and conditions, including:

  • Parkinson’s disease and related conditions — a slow but progressive degenerative disease with the loss of coordinated muscle movement leaving patients with stiffness, slowness, and possibly tremor, all from a decrease in dopamine (chemical in the brain for moving.)
  • Hemifacial spasm — irregular, involuntary muscle spasms on one side of the face.
  • Blepharospasm —an uncontrolled contraction of the eyelids that may be temporary twitching or closing of the eyelid.
  • Dystonia —strong, involuntary muscle contractions causing co-contraction of muscles leading to turning, twisting, curling.  Examples include cervical dystonia (torticollis) or writer’s cramp.
  • Sialorrhea — an excessive flow of saliva that may be associated with various conditions.
  • Spasticity —tightness, stiffness, or spasms of muscles usually from strokes or spinal cord injuries.
  • Essential tremor —causes rhythmic shaking, most often in hands, voice, and/or head.
  • Huntington’s disease and other chorea — hereditary disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to mental decline and behavioral symptoms. This  is usually associated with chorea, which includes brief, unpredictable movements that interfere with speech, swallowing, posture and gait.
  • Restless leg syndrome — painful or uncomfortable sensation, jerking, or movement preceded by the urge to move the legs and relieved by movement.  This typically, but not always, occurs at night or on long car rides.
  • Multiple system atrophy — occurs from degeneration of nerve cells in the brain causing problems with movement, balance, and other autonomic functions of the body such as bladder control or blood-pressure regulation.  This usually is confused with Parkinson’s disease or cerebellar ataxia.
  • Ataxia — an impaired ability to coordinate movement often characterized by a staggering gait and postural imbalance.  These can be acquired or inherited.
  • Tic disorders — include abrupt, repetitive involuntary movements and sounds that can be influenced by emotions, such as Tourette syndrome.
  • Deep brain stimulation for movement disorders — a surgical process to treat certain neurologic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, and tremor.

Movement Disorders Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnostic Methods

The full extent of the problem may not be completely understood immediately, but may be revealed with a comprehensive medical evaluation and diagnostic testing.

Movement disorders also depend on a number of diagnostic tools, including:

  • Patient’s complete health history
  • Thorough neurological exam by a specialist
  • Complete family history
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • DAT scans (measure dopamine uptake in the brain)

Treatment Options

Scott & White offers a number of treatment options to provide relief from movement disorders.

Some treatment options include:

  • Medication — to help control symptoms and manage depression or anxiety that may accompany your disorder
  • Botox injections — to relieve muscle contractions and spasms
  • Lifestyle changes — exercise, diet, or stress management
  • Supportive therapies — physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy may also aid in your treatment
  • Surgery — depending on the extent of your symptoms, your doctor may suggest surgery

Deep brain stimulation is a surgical procedure used to treat certain neurologic conditions. In this type of treatment, an electrode is implanted surgically into the deep brain structures that influence movement. The conditions most commonly treated with DBS are Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and tremor.

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